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Teaching the Trees Book Report

In: Other Topics

Submitted By hannahmuller
Words 1949
Pages 8
Hannah Muller
ENVR 102
Book Report
For this book report, I read Teaching the Trees by Joan Maloof. Joan Maloof studied Plant Science at the University of Delaware, Environmental Science at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and Ecology at the University of Maryland College Park. Maloof is a professor at Salisbury University who teaches biology and environmental studies at Salisbury University. Aside from being a professor, Maloof is a biologist. She was always very interested in forests so from very early on Maloof has been exploring forests all over the eastern United States. She puts a lot of focus on the intertwined connections between specific tree species and the specific animals and insects that need to tree to live and in turn the tree needs them as well. Maloof possesses great enthusiasm for the woods and everything that they contain and is working on developing networking old growth forests across the United States. Teaching the Trees starts out with Joan Maloof saying how we would lose the “Magical Web” of relationships between organisms and trees (Maloof xiii). She begins talking about the services that trees provide for us. She also talks about how the benefits of trees equal healthier air for us to breathe. Japanese researchers have even found that there are 120 chemical compounds in mountain forest air that are good for us (Maloof 3). Inhaling this air can even be cancer preventing. Perhaps by trying to save the forests we are actually trying to save ourselves (Maloof 5). There are so many invisible connections between the health of ourselves and the earth. This is what Maloof means by the living web of connections. Maloof talks about a bunch of different species throughout her book, starting off with the tulip poplar tree since it is her personal favorite type of tree. The tulip poplar tree provides many services such as food for bees, humans, cardinals, squirrels, rabbits, and deer (Maloof 11). Trees are more than just wood and we need to respect that. It is an issue that so many people only see trees having a singular service being to provide wood. Maloof goes onto say that if students were familiar with celebrating non-human creations such as respect and the environment instead of creations by humans, that maybe people would be more willing to give plants and animals praise. She then goes onto talk about sycamore trees on page 19. High up in sycamore tree Maloof had her first taste of self-actualization. She could be herself, an individual, shaped not by parents or teachers but by a force to fulfill some unknown void in the web she so often refers to. Maloof informs the reader that sycamore trees are the most massive trees in the eastern United States and live up to 500 years if we refrain from cutting them out. They can serve as shelters and protection for humans, livestock, and bats (Maloof 20). She also talks about the types of bugs native to sycamores. Lace bugs and sycamore leafhoppers only feed on sycamore leaves and different species of leafhoppers live on different parts of the leaves. Next, Maloof proceeds onto beech trees. They provide beautiful lighting, as their leaves are more translucent than any other tree. Unfortunately, because of our over planting of pine trees, only 2% of our area forests are beech trees. This is quite a shame because beech forests provide great habitat for salamanders. If nothing is done to save the beech trees, certain salamanders will go extinct as the bears already have. Beech trees produce beech nuts and these nuts were a critical food source for bears. No beech trees means no beech nuts, and therefor no bears. Destruction of beech trees will inevitably lead to the destruction of red backed salamanders, beech drops, different types or orchids since the bears are already gone (Maloof, 33). Again, the intertwined web Maloof talks about appears. We need to be more aware of how many other things die with a tree when it is cut down. Next, Maloof moves on to talk about pines. So many pines are on the eastern shore because the pine market drives the landscape of the eastern shore. Pine is useful for making paper and they are among few tree species that grow really fast so we can just keep chopping them down in their prime to make room for new ones (Maloof 38). There are no grandfather trees left because we cut down trees early in their life so that we can take it to make wood and make room to plant more pines. This is a huge shame because grandfather trees have the most to offer. They have the greatest variety of living species and are inspiring (Maloof 49). Maloof also writes about black locusts. This type of tree produces a lot of nectar because plants with extra ducts attract beneficial insects. This enhances the plant survival and allows them to produce more offspring. Black locust trees also improves soil nutrients (Maloof 71). We make compromises and decisions that are short sighted and that disregard the health of the earth and the health of our bodies is impacted by these choices. All biological organisms on earth are future oriented because the genes that make them up have adapted and those are the genes that survive. However, most human societal priorities have become focused on the now and don't think about how we are impacting the earth for our future generations (Maloof 97). We must keep this in mind if we want to be sustainable. Maloof conveys to the reader that we need to step it up and take the necessary time to change the world so that it can have a bright and successful future. My favorite part of Teaching the Trees, or the part I found most engaging, was not just one part, it was actually several. On page 24, Maloof talks about how her friend once said, “trees aren’t in the environment, they are the environment”. This statement really stood out to me. I couldn't agree with it more honestly. People do not put much value on plants and they really should. Trees are wondrous beings; they provide so many services that benefit not only human life, but all life. Without trees, there is no wood, shelter, bees, certain types of animals, fall leaves, paper, shade, healthy air etc. There is no environment period without trees. Another part of Teaching the Trees that really stuck out to me was when Maloof stated that, “The only moral solution to this paradox is to strive to minimize our impacts and to be utterly clear about the impacts that we are having” (Maloof 37). She follows this statement in the next few pages as she says that even though many people don't think of things in way, when you kill a tree you are taking a life. Again, I completely agree with these assertions. We, as a population, need to be aware of the impacts we are having on our environment. Not only do our actions mess up other ecosystems, but this directly impacts us as well because everything is connected. If we are more aware as a whole of what we are doing and how detrimental our actions actually are, then things could really start to change for the better. Trees are a necessity in so many ways and we really just need to leave some alone to just be. One last thing that really stood out to me was when Maloof said, “We all must gesture in the direction that we hope to see the world go” (Maloof 115). I believe this to be very true. Words only go so far. If we want this world to change for the better, we must take action. Even if it’s just not spraying your lawn with chemicals or recycling or planting a single tree in your yard, any small action makes a little bit of a difference and that’s better than nothing.
I loved this book so much. I have had to read a lot of books for school lately and honestly this is the only one I have enjoyed reading in a long time. Joan Maloof is so inspiring. I loved the spiritual and environmentally conscious aspects Maloof incorporates into her book. I also agreed with literally every point that she made about how the environment is full of interconnected webs and how important it is to protect it, so it was refreshing to read and it was also incredibly eye opening. Maloof puts these serious issues into hopeful perspectives and conveys her love for trees and the environment throughout the entirety of the book. These are her thoughts and feelings, yet they have scientific evidence backing them up. Teaching the Trees is a perfect combination of emotional and logical thought intertwined into one book.
The five books I found to be similar to Teaching the Trees, includes: Among the Ancients: Adventures in the Eastern Old Growth Forests also by Joan Maloof, Eastern Wildflowers and Trees, Winter Tree Finder: A Manual for Identifying Deciduous Trees in Winter, Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees, and Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World. Among the Ancients: Adventures in the Eastern Old Growth Forests is similar to teaching the trees because it talks about touring old-growth forests and aims to convey to the reader that these forests aren’t only located on the west coast. This book talks about the adventure in traveling to each individual forest and what visitors find upon arrival. From PA to WI, each adventure provides experiences with forests containing older trees and therefor a richer biodiversity. This book also discusses the link between old-growth forests and humanity’s survival. Eastern Wildflowers and Trees by Author Melanie Choukas-Bradley discusses 350 eastern woodland wildflowers and trees found at Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland. This book serves as a guide to identifying plants across North America. The Winter Tree Finder book written by May and Tom Watts, talks about getting to know all of the deciduous trees by examining twigs, buds, and other features. It is illustrated with author’s line drawings similar to the drawings in Teaching the Trees. The fourth book I found, Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees by Nancy R. Hugo, discusses tulip poplar trees, maple trees, and beech trees similarly to Teaching the Trees. This book invites the readers to watch trees with the care and sensitivity, which for most, is in a whole new way. Focusing on ten kinds of trees in North America, the author goes into detail about the rewards of tree watching and talks about different types of interesting leaves, twigs, fruits, etc. This book is essentially a beautiful journey into the life cycles of these types of trees such as the red maple, tulip poplar, and white pine. Lastly, the book Dwellings; A Spiritual History of the Living World written by Linda Hogan, discusses how we should praise the earth, the sky, the animals, and the water. She stresses how important it is to respect our earth and shows the reader the spiritual side of the history of our earth and offers hopeful opinions for the future. These five books are similar to Teaching the Trees in more ways than one. Although these books are all very different, each one deals with either specific species of plants and illustrations or guides on how to identify them, the spirituality behind loving and respecting our planet and its plant/animal life, or they talk about all of the interconnected webs in the relationships between the different parts of our environments.

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